Frank Lampard's time in charge of Chelsea came to an abrupt end on Monday. Such is the cost of leading any Chelsea side to ninth in the Premier League table at the season's halfway stage, particularly one that has had over $200 million invested in some of the best and brightest talents in Europe.
"It's not my decision, that's something that will always be there," Lampard said after watching his side tamely fall 2-0 at Leicester City. "You always understand some things are beyond your control." And indeed, Chelsea made their decision.
From the outset, it is worth noting that even an owner as trigger-happy as Roman Abramovich would rather not sack a club legend such as Lampard. There is an acknowledgement by some around Chelsea that their former manager is not wrong to point out that after last season's transfer ban this remains a transition period for the Blues, albeit one that was supposed to be accelerated by the signings of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Thiago Silva, among others.
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But, decision makers at Stamford Bridge decided that Lampard is not the man to trust with the coming years of this transition with reports indicating a readiness to invest further this summer to try to take advantage of the financial troubles of their rivals. Below we assess Lampard's exit could mean for key aspects of Chelsea's transfer business:
The West Ham midfielder was the one who got away last summer with David Moyes demanding "Bank of England" money, understood to be over $100 million, to sell the former Chelsea academy prospect back to the Blues. It was a deal that was particularly favored by Lampard, who believed that the 22-year-old could develop into either a top tier defensive midfielder or center back.
Rice has certainly lived up to Lampard's assessment this season. One of a handful of outfield players across the league to have played every minute so far this season, the England international has made the third most interceptions in the top flight this season and sits fifth for ball recoveries. As a long-term successor for N'Golo Kante, who Inter Milan attempted to sign last summer, he might be the ideal option.
As such it should not be assumed that Chelsea's interest ends with Lampard's departure but new coaches bring with them new priorities and a more defense-minded shield may not be what is favored by many of those being linked with with the job. Thomas Tuchel, for instance, favoured the playmaking of Marco Verratti at the base of his engine room.
Chelsea have been stung before by signing players specifically to fit into the vision of coaches whose reign is usually fleeting at Stamford Bridge, Jorginho was the ideal conductor for Maurizio Sarri's orchestra but has been an awkward fit under Lampard. Rice would surely be an excellent Chelsea player under any new head coach but there may not be quite the intensity to their pursuit under new management.
This one is rather more simple. Chelsea are reportedly ready to make their move for Haaland this summer, a year before his $90 million release clause comes into play, so as to steal a march on a signing that every club with the means to do so will investigate in the summer of 2022.
There will be a stampede for Haaland's services when he decides his time at Borussia Dortmund is over. Having flourished with Red Bull Salzburg in Austria the step up to Europe's top five leagues has proven to be a breeze for the 20-year-old, who has 35 goals in 36 appearances for the German giants. It is on the biggest stages that he most excels, since the start of the 2019-20 season he has scored 16 goals in 12 Champions League games. Only Robert Lewandowski has more in the same period.
In short, he is one of the best young players in the world and would be a bargain even if Chelsea had to go significantly into nine figures to prise him away a season earlier than Dortmund would like to lose him. Whoever the manager, the Blues will surely remain in the race for Haaland.
The academy stars
Signing Haaland would heighten doubts over Tammy Abraham's future. Even if it also meant the departure of Olivier Giroud, out of contract at the end of the season, there would be no doubting that the England international would be at best second fiddle to the new man, possibly even lower on the depth chart dependent on where any head coach chose to deploy Timo Werner.
Abraham may not be the only academy prospect looking nervously over his shoulder now that Lampard is no longer in charge. To an extent it was a matter of timing that the 42-year-old found himself tied into Chelsea's youth revolution last season, a FIFA-imposed transfer ban leaving them with little choice but to play the kids. However it has been something that he has shown at least some commitment to this season.
Mason Mount has been such a key figure in Lampard's plans that the ex-manager felt compelled to address questions over whether he shows any favoritism to the 22-year-old, who worked with him on loan at Derby County. Reece James, Billy Gilmour and Callum Hudson-Odoi have all gotten opportunities under Lampard that may not be so consistently available in the future.
Already there are signs that the Blues' commitment to the youth movement is slowing. Defender Fikayo Tomori might have a bright future at Chelsea but a loan to AC Milan which included a $34 million option to buy means that equally the Serie A leaders might be the beneficiary of his development. Similary, without Lampard at the helm it is fair to suspect that the likes of Hudson-Odoi might be looked on more as sellable assets who could fund the next big money swoop, rather than a building block for the future.